Although New Zealand’s most popular tourist season is summer between November and February, winter is an equally fantastic time to visit. Not only do you get to enjoy the natural splendour in a whole different atmosphere, the attractions and accommodation are far less crowded. This allows you to enjoy things at your leisure, and even save some money. Winter creates a unique and beautiful landscape throughout the country, and there are some sights and activities that can only be experienced at this time of year. New Zealand winter is also exceptionally mild compared to many other countries’ definitions, so those giving up a part of their summer needn’t feel too bad about it. However, you still need to be prepared for cold conditions, particularly driving. The following activities are best experienced during winter:
Tramping and Hiking. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the famous hiking tracks such as the Abel Tasman and Aotea tracks become painfully crowded during the summer months. Hiking them in winter gives you a much more tranquil, relaxing adventure (and makes it easier to book the huts and accommodation along them). You still need to be prepared for cold weather, and some tracks may be closed during winter so check ahead on the Department of Conservation website before you go.
Hot Springs. Because New Zealand is formed over a massive faultline, there are many geothermal areas where hot water naturally bubbles to the surface. You’ll find them dotted all over the country, with popular ones in Hanmer Springs, Maruia Springs, Lake Tekapo and Rotorua. They’re perfect for a relaxing soak, and even better with soft drifts of snow all around. Many of the waters have natural sulphurs and minerals to keep your skin healthy.
Queenstown. Queenstown comes into its own during winter, with the Winter Games and Winter Festival providing fantastic things to see and do all season long. The festival is filled with musical events, food and wine, winter balls and family day activities, while the Winter Games are your chance to watch world-class athletes in action.
Skiing. With ski fields all over New Zealand, it’s almost impossible to go on a winter road trip here without ending up within reach of one. The fields are kept in good condition with lots of slopes for skiiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Winter is one of the best times to come to New Zealand with so much to see and do, and much less tourist hustle and bustle. You’ll leave with a truly memorable experience.